Flashback: It’s June 7, 2014 at Circuit of the Americas, the inaugural X Games Austin weekend. The perfect story is playing out–the venue is larger than life, the field is stacked with the best action sport athletes in the world, and local boy Chase Hawk breaks out his A-game to grab gold in BMX Park. He nails his last run, gets his score, and falls to the ground. He’s elated, relieved, and stoked. The crowd goes wild!
Fast forward to today and Hawk is a few weeks away from the 2015 Summer X Games. Park is one of five BMX disciplines that will be featured at this year’s Games (see X Games.espn.go.com for a complete listing). This year, Hawk will defend his gold against 13 other riders including 2014 medalists Drew Bezanson (silver) and Daniel Sandoval (bronze). Each rider gets a few days to practice on the course, then lays down three, 50-second runs of their best riding with about 10 minutes of rest in between runs. On the afternoon of Friday, June 5, this year’s king will be crowned.
If you’re like us, you nurture a quiet hope that your local action sports heroes are not only world-class on the track and in the air, but are quality human beings in their non-competitive lives as well. AFM put this quiet hope to the test and caught up with Chase Hawk at his hometown track, House Park BMX and Skate Park. He did not disappoint.
Hawk dished on how and why he prepares the way he does, the key members of his performance team, the vibe during X Games practices and competition, and what it meant to him to have Aug. 16 named Chase Hawk Day in Austin (that’s right, he has a day named after him).
AFM: You’ve experienced success before, but how did you make that happen again last year? And how did it feel to win a gold?
Chase: BMX Park at X Games is always a focus of mine, especially now that it’s here in Austin. I go there planning to do well every year, but [the gold] can go to anybody—whoever can put it all together on that day, and on that course; it’s theirs. I felt amazing that day [in 2014]. The course suited me, and with my friends and family cheering me on, I went out like I was here at House Park, comfortable and confident. It was just my day.
AFM: How do you prepare to train and compete in a sport that’s as physically demanding and dangerous as BMX?
Chase: When I was 18 or 19 if you’d told me to stop riding and go to the gym, nah, I wasn’t interested. I thought I was invincible. The best athletes get to a certain point in their career when they realize that to ride consistently well, you have to first be the best athlete you can be. I trust my guys—they get the sport and they get my issues.
AFM: So what are you trying to achieve in the gym? What does your program look like?
Chase: I’m 28 now, so I train and eat to improve how I compete, but also to enhance how I recover so I can ride hard and ride a lot. I’m also there to balance out asymmetries from past injuries. I’ve broken my leg, two toes, cracked some ribs, broken a scapula and a collarbone, oh yeah, and a hand—which was the first thing I ever broke when I was still racing dirt.
AFM: You have someone you work with here in Austin, a performance coach, right?
Chase: I have a great team supporting me here. I train at Driven Performance Training downtown. Andy Twellman and Anthony Winn are the best. No two workouts are exactly the same, and I feel like they get the sport and what I need. It’s always trial and error, but I’m honest if something’s not working and they are creative with programming something else that does. I’m lucky to have them on my side.
AFM: Most and least favorite exercises at Driven?
Chase: I hate the Versaclimber. I think I threw up once because of that thing. I do a lot of basics like push-ups, pull-ups, the lunge matrix, and I love sandbag cleans and slams.
AFM: You’re injured a little bit right now, yes? How do you handle the downtime, when you can’t ride?
Chase: It can be depressing, but that’s one reason I’m so into training now. It gives me something to do, something I can control that I know is making me better. If you can’t work one area, you can work some other area twice as hard. So it’s a chance to improve more than you would have if you weren’t injured.
AFM: What’s it like to grow up with a famous dad? To be the son of Tony Hawk?
Chase: (laughs) Haha! He’s not my dad. Who told you that?
AFM: Really? (awkward silence, then laughter)
Chase: Yeah, really. I grew up here on South First and South Congress, riding Ninth Street and anywhere else I could find. My dad’s name is Danny and my mom’s name is Donna. Tony’s from Cali.”
AFM: That’s just embarrassing…
Chase: Don’t worry about it. You might have to put that in the story though.
AFM: You mentioned practice week before X Games. What’s that like?
Chase: It’s funny. We all know each other, but there are some rivalries, some crews that form. The “style” guys hang together and the “trick” guys do too. I’ll hang with anyone that will keep it light and are laughing at practice. Some guys stress hard, but for me it’s just an honor to be there and it’s fun, so if I get last it’s not the end of the world.
AFM: Coolest place you’ve traveled to ride, and favorite achievement?
Chase: If I have to pick, Spain is probably the coolest place I’ve ever ridden. For awards, I’m really proud of the two NORA’s in Park I’ve won (in 2014 and in 2009). NORA stands for ‘Number One Rider Award,’ and it’s voted on by other riders and industry people. It’s like our version of the Oscars or Grammy’s. I’m even more proud that [the City of Austin] named a day in my honor in Austin. We’re going to be doing something really special [on that day] this year to give back to the amateur level of the sport. Stay tuned.
We followed up with the crew at Driven Performance Training for a lesson on what makes a training program world-class.
AFM: What are the “must do’s” for a BMX rider at Chase’s level?
Andy: He needs a rock solid core and strong shoulders for sure, and power endurance. Injury resistance too. We want him strong enough to handle an occasional fall, but also powerful enough to get the air he needs to get. We want to help him ride for as long as he wants to keep riding professionally.
AFM: You were on deck last year at the X Games, right Anthony?
Anthony: Yeah, that was pretty cool. I was there to keep him loose and mobile. (Anthony is a performance coach and licensed massage therapist.) I helped him spare his back and keep his neck relaxed. When he feels good, he performs well. It was an honor to have had a little part in his success that day.
Lunge Matrix (hands behind head) x 5
Pushup/TRX Row Ladder 12/10/8/6/4 each
Sangbag Clean & Slams 6/5/4/3/2
50 seconds hard/2-minute active recovery and/or rotational Medball work